You learned it in preschool, and now it’s back in a more grown-up way. From cars to kids’ clothes to cold hard cash, sharing is caring more than ever before. The sharing economy builds and leverages social bonds, creates a more democratic marketplace, reduces the sheer amount of stuff we need to buy, and creates more resilient communities in the process. It’s the bastard child of market disruption that began on the web decades ago (Napster, anyone?), but it’s a child with a conscience.
The kind of “collaborative consumption” we see in services like Zipcar and Airbnb has the potential to revolutionize the way we live our lives. But it’s not all bartered canning equipment and blissful couchsurfing, folks — the sharing economy is a serious moneymaker for individuals and companies who “share” their stuff for a price. Investors, who prefer the wonktastic phrase “underused asset utilization” to “sharing economy,” say the market amounts to $100 billion to $500 billion worldwide, and it’s growing fast.
Make your hydroponic backyard organic kale dreams come true, now with help from the federal government. Yesterday the U.S. Department of Agriculture finalized a microloan program to assist veterans, minority growers, and small-time farmers who might otherwise have to rely on credit cards to get their farms up and running.
The microloans, up to $35,000 each, will be majorly helpful in an industry where loans are usually for much bigger sums, and involve much bigger stacks of paperwork. More microloans could mean more microfarms, and more diverse ones on the whole, and super-low interest rates (currently 1.25 percent) could certainly cut down on farmers’ debt load.
With proper care and respect, Earth can provide a high quality of life for all people in perpetuity. Yet we devastate productive lands and waters for a quick profit, a few temporary jobs, or a one-time resource fix.
Our current expansion of tar sands oil extraction, deep-sea oil drilling, hydraulic fracturing natural gas extraction, and mountaintop-removal coal mining are but examples of this insanity. These highly profitable choices deepen our economic dependence on rapidly diminishing, nonrenewable fossil-energy reserves, disrupt the generative capacity of Earth’s living systems, and accelerate climate disruption.
A global economy dependent on this nonsense is already failing and its ultimate collapse is only a matter of time. For a surprisingly long time, we humans have successfully maintained the illusion that we are outside of, superior to, and not subject to the rules of nature. We do so, however, at a huge cost, and payment is coming due.
To secure the health and happiness of future generations, we must embrace life as our defining value, recognize that competition is but a subtext of life’s deeper narrative of cooperation, and restructure our institutions to conform to life’s favored organizing principle of radically decentralized, localized decision making and self-organization. This work begins with recognizing what nature has learned about the organization of complex living systems over billions of years.
And just as ILSR has been aggregating data on the merits of localism, another group, this one in Bellingham, has been connecting the movement's champions since 2001. The Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, BALLE for short, brings together manufacturers, economic development offices, entrepreneurs and lenders pursuing localism as a core value. Surfing around their U.S.-focused website, I was surprised to learn three of their recently appointed 2013 Local Economy Fellows were Canadians, two of them business leaders from right here in Vancouver. BALLE executive director Michelle Long takes that as a sign the movement is gaining momentum.
"Eleven years ago we didn't even talk about climate change and Buy Local was a weird parochial idea," she tells me on the phone from Bellingham, Washington.
"Back then, whenever we'd work in different communities, there'd be some economist from some research university who'd write op-eds in the paper saying this is against proper economic theory and comparative advantage and specialization and free trade," she says.
Fast-forward to today and the U.S. is littered with studies -- such as the ones above -- suggesting communities with a high density and diversity of locally owned businesses are also home to more wealth and more jobs. Hell, even Wal-Mart is buying local.
"Globalization did a really good job of funneling wealth into a few hands, but it did not do a good job of most wealth and most jobs for most people," says Long. "I challenge any serious business leader to not question the foundation of our economy right now."
Long says this year's focus at BALLE is on fostering connections such as the ones we observed on the Vancouver rooftop in the opening vignette: bringing together food producers and lenders willing to finance them in the face of obvious challenges. The hope, says Long, is that local food and lending will become conduits toward a whole new way of doing business.
"We can either all hoard big piles of money and try to fight each other, or we can trust in relationships. If we reawaken that we're here to help each other, we're going to be okay," she says. "Security will come from community."
I believe that building resilient local communities and economies in a way that regenerates the environment and celebrates the human experience is the work of our generation. – Toby Barazzuol
Welcome to our first featured Fellow of the month: Toby Barazzuol from Vancouver, B.C.
Each month we’ll be taking a closer look at the people who make up the 2013 BALLE Local Economy Fellowship and sharing insight into what makes them tick, what inspires them to do this work, and why we think they are among the rising stars in Localism.
Born and raised in Vancouver, BC, Toby founded Eclipse Awards in 1998 with the motto “Happiness Delivered.” Eclipse creates handcrafted recognition awards that help organizations appreciate and engage their people. “Recognition is about celebrating efforts, bestowing confidence, and creating happiness. It’s also an amazing way to empower people and build more resilient communities. Many people discount recognition as something cute, however when used thoughtfully, it’s pretty powerful and transformative stuff. We use recognition to power up people and communities.”
In 2004 Toby was selected as one of Vancouver’s Top 40 under 40 Entrepreneurs. In 2008 his company was received a Business Excellence Award from DELL as one of Canada’s Top 10 Small Businesses. In 2011 Toby was recognized as a “Faces of Change” business leader in community building by the North American Association of Asian Professionals, and this year Eclipse Awards was selected as British Columbia’s Best Employer in 2012 by Small Business BC.
Why Place Matters:
Toby’s love of Vancouver has been a lifelong affair, and though he lives and works in the big city, he as a unique and lasting connection to the earth. Born in the only house inside Stanley Park gave him a unique vantage point to explore nature. (His grandparents ran the Stanley Park Teahouse and his parents lived in a small apartment above the restaurant). “Growing up in that fertile environment [Stanley Park] definitely gave me a love and appreciation of nature that is still with me today.”
Despite the astronomical costs of living in Vancouver today, Toby is committed to being part of the fabric that will make Vancouver an attractive community for years to come. And the love of nature has given him an entrepreneurial dream: “I have 22 acres of forested property in Squamish that has absolutely nothing on it but trees, and one day I will build a tree house community there.”
His approach to community building and collaboration is also innovative and inspired by nature. Through his experiences of adopting sustainability at his own business, Toby realized that individual companies can only achieve so much on their own. “When you work alone you reach a ‘sustainability ceiling’ and in order to reach the next level of sustainability, you need to start forming partnerships and collaborations with other organizations.” For example, recycling organics is not something that an individual businesses can easily accomplish on its own, however when you get 50 businesses together, it becomes a possibility. Think of nature’s most productive ecosystems and they are always the result of a diverse collection of organisms that are working together. Our economies are the same - once you start developing partnerships across all sectors of society with a focus on positive community building, productive new opportunities will always emerge.”
“I believe that you can build stronger businesses by first building stronger communities and I’ve found this approach to be both effective yet relatively uncommon. My work is influenced by the principles of permaculture and natural systems, so I look at community building in a holistic way that includes businesses, artists and residences as equally important components of society. I also strive to infuse beauty and happiness into my work. These simple things make work meaningful and they can be enjoyed by everyone.”
For nearly eight years Toby has been exploring the intersection of business, community, sustainability, local economy, social capital, job creation, and urban agriculture in one of the most challenging and diverse neighborhoods in North America. Through hundreds of community meetings he has learned firsthand about community building, and has come to believe that you can accomplish much more with building than through fighting. He understands how to develop relationships and to build the foundations of a movement while harnessing the power of collaboration and through the magic that can happen when egos are removed. “I’ve earned the respect of my peers and community as a dedicated leader with integrity and a passion for sustainability. Most importantly, I continue to dream of ways to make the world a healthier, happier, and more beautiful place.”
Toby’s goals for his work as a BALLE Local Economy Fellow include:
Redefine the meaning of value and profit in the emerging new economy
Transform consumer perceptions on the importance of buying locally
Reframe the value of collaboration and diversity versus competition
Reimagine communities as ecosystems and open dialogues between business, art, and residential sectors.
Continue to build the connection between urban agriculture and food security as a way to build more resilient low-income communities.
Share the importance and power of recognition as a tool to empower emerging leaders, develop social capital, build resilient communities, and celebrate the human experience.
Toby’s Local Economy Dream for Vancouver is for the broader community to have a deeper understanding of what sustainability means. “People focus on clean-tech, green jobs and recycling, but we need to expand the conversation about what it means to be sustainable. We need to ignite people’s imaginations with a vision of regenerating the environment and building an economy that values the sacred - aiming for zero is no longer enough!”
We agree Toby, go forth and regenerate! We can’t wait to see the accelerated mark you will be making on Vancouver and beyond.
One of the more fascinating and underreported stories in U.S. energy right now is the budding movement toward localism. In the case of energy, this doesn’t necessarily (or exclusively) mean producing energy locally; few towns or cities could generate sufficient power for themselves within city limits. It just means asserting more local control over energy provision and use. Often that means buying cleaner power than large, bloated, risk-averse utilities are able to provide, and using it more intelligently.
At the heart of the reason why our multicultural society remains segmented is our lack of familiarity with each other. For example, the different ethnic groups in my neighborhood share very little in common as far as cuisine or native language. Naturally, they are unfamiliar with each other’s cultures. Each family tends to associate with others from their same ethnic group. The lack of familiarity among different groups leads to separateness, which can lead to stereotyping. In comparison, communities where members are more familiar with each other tend to have more of the mingling and interaction that makes neighborhoods vibrant and wonderful.
To my own amazement, I have observed how the growth of the local food movement is helping to change race relations for the better. As awareness about the dangerous chemical methods used to farm conventionally grown food spreads, demand for local organic food is spreading across color lines. The simple act of eating differently is radically changing race relations as diverse communities interact in newly forming local food economies.
2012 was a pivotal year for the Localist movement, with success stories and innovations piling up faster than ever before. We think that 2013 is going to be even better. If you’re wondering how BALLE fits into your work in the coming year, here are some simple ways to connect and engage with us!
The Top Five Ways to Build a Localist Economy in 2013
(1) Think Local Procurement First
Whether it's subscribing to our blogs or attending our webinars, you can learn more about Buy Local campaigns and why consumer education is still an essential tool in the Localist workbench. But bringing the Localist movement to scale requires setting our sights on some of the biggest consumers out there: governments and anchor institutions. Dig in with us to explore how to make procurement work for you. Engage with Us.
(2) Measure What Matters Connect and learn with us: In 2013 BALLE is embarking on the next phase of a comprehensive measuring and evaluation program to clearly demonstrate the many benefits of Localism: More jobs, more wealth, more equality, and many previously unquantified benefits of a healthy economy. Engage with Us.
(3) Share Localist Resources with your Community BALLE is the nexus of activity in the Localist community, and there is no better way to catalyze activity in your community than to take full advantage of BALLE’s many offerings. Get your community connected with the best practices, best examples, best tools, and best stories the Localist community has to offer. Engage with Us.
(4) Share Your Stories With Us There are no one-way streets in the new economy, and in order for BALLE to continue to offer the best solutions from around the world, we need to hear from you about how go-getters in your community are laying the foundations for a new economy. Engage with Us.
(5) Unleash Financial Capital in Your Local Economy In the interest of helping communities across the continent find local financial resources to build enduring local wealth, BALLE has developed numerous community capital programs focused on local investment. Engage with Us.
(6 – Bonus!) Come to the 2013 BALLE Conference!
2013 BALLE Conference
Our annual Conference is simply the best opportunity for you to work with a superb, high-caliber community to advance Localist economic transformation in your home place, build deep relationships that will inspire and recharge your own work, and go to lots of great parties in the process.
Whether you are an international thought leader, on-the-ground social entrepreneur, business leader, policymaker, network builder, funder, philanthropist, or Localist of any other persuasion, this is the can’t-miss event of the year for you. No matter your industry or interest, you’ll be tapping into a synergy in localism that is unparalleled. This is the place where even dots come to be connected!
The BALLE Business Conference immerses you directly in a community of the best people, resources and ideas to unleash real prosperity. Join more than 600 of the world’s leading Localists to:
Work together to share innovative business practices;
Devise effective strategies for community engagement and public policy;
Experience the cutting-edge in creative community capital, finance, and funding;
Network with the Localist movement’s founders and visionaries;
Learn about creative Localist innovations in the worlds of manufacturing, retail, ownership structures, economic justice, technology, and more;
Take your own work to the next level by receiving direct mentorship from social entrepreneurs, engaging in peer networking, and taking eye-opening tours of Buffalo’s resurgent Localist success stories.
Selection of confirmed speakers:
Janine Benyus – Author, Biologist, Founder of the The Biomimicry Institute
Community Capital: Tuesday, February 5, 2013 : 10:00am PT : The Farmer Reserve Fund Model: Business Microloans that Leverage Credit Union & Community Partner Capacity with Tim Crosby [link], Director, Slow Money NW. Pop quiz: What do you do if you have local farmers who need capital but don’t qualify for conventional lending, and a financial institution that wants to lend to community farms, but can’t afford the risk?... Read More | Register Now*
Local First: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 : 10:00am PT : Local First Grows Up: An In Depth How-To on Funding and Accelerating Local Procurement with Ted Howard, Executive Director, The Democracy Collaborative. In case you haven’t noticed, BALLE is big on local procurement. Buy Local campaigns and consumer education are still essential tools in the Localist workbench, but bringing the Localist movement to scale requires... Read More | Register Now*
Can't attend? Don't worry, register and we’ll send you the link to the webinar recording and materials to view on your own time.
*Register for three or more webinars in any of our series and receive 20% off your total registration! For more information about pricing see our Member Benefits.
You can expect the Buzz to land in your mailbox the first week of each month. BALLE members should send 50-word submissions by the 15th of each month for inclusion in the next edition. We will do our best to include your item in the newsletter and/or on our website.
Our social media channels are humming with Localist action. Be sure to follow us on Facebook so that you don’t miss a beat. Remember that we’ve moved to /BeALocalist so like us there!
After Superstorm Sandy, neighborhood networks [...] were activated quickly around the five boroughs. Community-based groups such as Red Hook Initiative in Brooklyn (where I volunteered after the storm), which already had deep roots in the area, were able to call on existing relationships and get help where it was needed, even as government and national relief organizations were falling short.
What’s more, in places where different social groups had robust internal connections but didn’t really interact with each other, storm survival and recovery provided a framework for building new alliances. They haven’t always been seamless or comfortable, but they have been happening.
It happened in Red Hook, where residents of the public housing projects found themselves working alongside business owners from the gentrified streets nearby. It happened in the often fractious Rockaways, where surfers and firefighters and everyone else has pitched in to clean the streets and rip moldy sheetrock from homes, despite past resentments and divisions. For the most part, strength has built on strength.
To its advocates, crowdfunding is a way for capital-starved entrepreneurs to receive financing that neither big investors nor lenders are willing or able to provide. To others, it represents a potential minefield that could help bad businesses get off the ground before they eventually fail, and in some cases could even ensnare unsophisticated investors in outright fraud.
Those fears are partly why the Securities and Exchange Commission has delayed rules allowing crowdfunding that were supposed to take effect this month as part of the JOBS Act (Jump-Start Our Business Start-Ups), signed by President Obama last April. The S.E.C. is wary of loosening investor protections that have been in place since the 1930s.
Despite the uncertainty, the outlines of a new industry are emerging as a few crowdfunding start-ups have found ways to raise money within current rules. They include companies like CircleUp and SoMoLend, which lends money to small, Main Street-type businesses that typically wouldn’t interest private investors.